Secret Internet copyright talks raise concerns
A secret trade negotiation going on in Seoul, South Korea this week could lead to your Internet service provider snooping in on your Web activity.
That’s the fear held by some civil rights and public interest groups, which complained to President Obama Thursday that the negotiations should be open for public scrutiny. The U.S. Trade Representative is a leading party in the talks and drafted a chapter of the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that deals with copyrighted material on the Internet.
The groups, which include Public Knowledge and the Sunlight Foundation, wrote in a letter that the secrecy of the process – and on an issue that could have broad implications for Web users – could unfairly the benefit content providers that are most actively involved in the process.
“We applaud your promise of a more transparent, collaborative and participatory government,” the groups wrote. “However, multiple aspects of ACTA fail to meet these standards.”
The USTR is joined in the talks by representatives from three dozen nations, including European Union members as well as and Japan and South Korea. The goal of the two-year effort is to establish a broad treaty on copyrighted material, covering everything from designer handbags to digital downloads of video.
On the Internet portion of the proposed treaty, legal professors, including Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, say that it appears to allow content producers, such as movie studios, music labels and book authors, to hold Internet service providers liable for the illegal exchange of material. That means they may be able to sue access providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast if Web users illegally download music or pirate material using those companies' networks. Public interest groups said that would prompt ISPs to monitor the content of traffic on their networks by filtering data.
“With respect to ACTA’s substance, we remain concerned that the terms may not
adequately account for all of the interests that would be affected,” the groups wrote in their letter. “The public and the industries enabling such uses would face crippling liability under an improperly calibrated intellectual property regime. ACTA could increase the risk of participating governments taking an imbalanced approach.”
November 5, 2009; 7:15 PM ET
Categories: AT&T , Consumers , Verizon
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